Generally, human bones are astonishingly strong and can handle strong impacts or forces. However, when more pressure is applied to a bone than it can withstand, a split or break can occur. A break of any size is referred to as a fracture. The term “break” is more commonly used among laypeople.
Fractures can occur in any bone in the body and can happen for a variety of reasons. They can occur because of a fall or a car accident. Sometimes fractures are the result of other medical conditions such as osteoporosis, cancers, or osteogeneris imperfecta.
A bone can fracture several different ways. Clean breaks, called closed or simple fractures cause no damage to the surrounding tissue and do not tear through the skin. Conversely, compound and open fractures do cause damage to the surrounding tissue and skin. These types of fractures are more severe than simple fractures due primarily to a greater risk of infection.
The bones of children are more elastic and therefore, suffer fractures differently. Fractures in children’s bones can be serious if they damage the growth plates- areas at the end of the bones where growth is taking place. Additionally, as adults age, their bones can withstand less force. Approximately 50% of women and 20% of men over age 50 will suffer a bone fracture.
There are many types of fractures. Some of these include:
- Comminuted fracture which occur when the bone is shattered into many pieces.
- Compression fractures which occur in the spongy bone in the spine and may result from osteoporosis.
- Hairline fractures are partial fractures of the bone which are difficult to detect.
- Stress fractures result from stresses and strains and are commonly found in athletes.
- Impacted fractures occur when one fragment of bone goes into another.
Symptoms and Signs of Bone Fractures
Signs and symptoms of a fracture can vary widely depending on many factors. Which bone is affected, how old the patient is, their over-all health, and the severity of the injury all determine symptoms and signs which may include:
- Bruising or discoloration at the affected area
- Angulation of the bone
- Possible bleeding with an open fracture
- Faintness and nausea when larger bones such as the pelvis or femur are fractured
Causes of Bone Fractures
Most fractures are the result of a fall or car accident. A person’s age, activity level, and medical history may all influence their susceptibility to fractures.
Once a fractured bone has been diagnosed, treatment and healing time will depend on which bone was fractured and the severity of the injury, but could include immobilization for 2-8 weeks, hospitalization, and bone and skin grafts. Even with proper treatment and physical therapy, fractures carry a risk of permanent scarring and/or disability.